By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a handful of players in new locations — a new top-line center for the Blue Jackets, a hot winger in Montreal, and a first-pair blueliner in the Arch City — a possible future No. 1 netminder in LA, and Zib in a major slump.
FIRST LINERS (RISERS)
Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA
Barkov is a center who plays a 200-foot game, excelling defensively as well as offensively. The 2013 second-overall pick, Barkov finally took that major step forward in 2018-19, scoring 96 points in 82 games. He took a mild step back before the pandemic hit, posting "only" 62 points in 66 games. (Of course, that's when I had him in my home league.) This year, Barkov already has four markers and seven apples in nine games, looking like an MVP-type candidate. A free agent after next season at 26 years old, Barkov should see close to eight figures a year in his next deal.
Jack Roslovic, C, CLM
I profiled Roslovic after he was traded to Winnipeg, as the move was expected to afford him top-six minutes. Now off COVID protocol, Roslovic is making the most of that opportunity, reaching the scoresheet in five consecutive games (two goals, including the game-winner Monday, and five assists). Centering Patrik Laine, who came with him to the Blue Jackets, and Cam Atkinson, Roslovic is primed for a breakout campaign — if he can keep that gig.
Conor Garland, RW, AZ
Garland took a major step forward from his first to second year, increasing his production from 18 points in 47 games to 39 in 68 contests. That spike looks like it might have been just the tip of the iceberg, seeing how Garland has played this year. Garland's goal Monday gave the Coyotes' first-line right winger five goals and eight apples in 12 games. Drafted in the fifth round, 123rd overall, in 2015, Garland has far exceeded expectations and showing no signs of slowing.
Conor Garland again. Every time I watch him play, he impresses me.
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) February 9, 2021
Josh Anderson, LW, MTL
Acquired by Montreal for Max Domi, Anderson was signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract by the Canadiens in October 2020 that turned heads. Early on, Anderson is looking like a bargain — at least in Year 1— playing like he did in 2018-19 when he potted 47 points with 214 hits in 82 games. Limited to 26 games last year due to a shoulder injury, Anderson is healthy and thriving, as his game-winning goal Saturday extended his goal streak to three and point streak to four, and he's now racked up 10 points through 12 games this season.
Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR
The Breadman has delivered since signing with the Rangers. Last year, his first in NY, Panarin set career highs in goals (32), assists (63), and TOI (20:36) while tying his previous high of 24 power-play points, all while playing just 69 games due to the NHL's shortened regular season. Panarin got off to a nice start to 2021 but watching him, you expected a lot more. Recently, that has most certainly been the case, as the star winger had three points in each of his last two games after Thursday's game, nine points in his last six, and 15 points in 11 games overall.
Torey Krug, D, STL
Krug, signed to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract by the Blues in October 2020, started slowly in St. Louis. After six games, the diminutive defenseman had just one goal and assist as he settled into his new surroundings and team. He has rebounded in fine fashion, collecting six of his eight points this year in the last seven games. The defenseman has added a plus-10 rating, 24 shots on goal, 18 blocked shots, and 14 hits in 13 outings, as he contributes across the board.
Jake Allen, G, MTL
After spending his whole career in St. Louis, Allen was traded to Montreal to back up Carey Price. Montreal doubled down on their commitment to him — at least, for this year while also making him eligible for the Seattle expansion draft — by signing Allen to a two-year, $5.1 million extension. Stopping 34 shots in a 2-1-win Saturday, Allen has rewarded Montreal for its commitment in him, going 4-1-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average and .940 save percentage through his first five appearances with the Habs.
Cal Petersen, G, LA
The changing of the guard between the pipes in LA might happen sooner than expected. Jonathan Quick has been pretty much god awful for the Kings, leaving the door open for Petersen. Despite seeing somewhat sporadic playing time in net, the 26-year-old netminder has a 1-4-0 record with a 2.52 GAA and a .925 save percentage, after allowing four goals on 33 shots Sunday. Despite Quick being under contract through 2022-23, the Kings most likely will expose the veteran netminder to expansion, protecting Petersen, who is young enough to grow into the role as No. 1 goalie as LA's lengthy pipeline of stud prospects join the parent club.
Others include: Clayton Keller, Mikael Backlund, Auston Matthews, Patrice Bergeron, Bo Horvat, Jamie Benn, Anze Kopitar, Vincent Trocheck, Joe Pavelski, Carter Verhaeghe, Mitch Marner, J.T. Miller, Cam Atkinson, Max Pacioretty, Christian Dvorak, Patrick Kane, Mike Hoffman, James van Riemsdyk, Jordan Kyrou, David Pastrnak, Tim Stutzle, Filip Forsberg, Mark Stone, Kyle Connor, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot, Dougie Hamilton, Charlie McAvoy, Nicolas Hague, Quinn Hughes, James Reimer, Kevin Lankinen, Chris Driedger, Philipp Grubauer and Igor Shesterkin.
Ryan Ellis, D, NAS
Ellis tallied 32-41 points each of the last five seasons. One concern is that he had been plagued by injuries the last three seasons, missing 58 games. Ellis started slowly this year with just one helper in his first seven games. But he is rounding into form, extending his point streak to four with an assist Friday before getting shut out Monday. Skating close to 25 minutes per game on the top pairing, including nearly three minutes on the man-advantage, Ellis is a solid second or third blueliner in fantasy leagues, who might have come cheaper during his fallow period earlier this season.
TRAINING ROOM (INJURIES)
Sean Couturier, C, PHI
Couturier, who missed three weeks with a rib injury, practiced with the team Saturday and played in Sunday's matchup against the Capitals. The Flyers not only missed Couturier's offensive production but really missed his play in the neutral and defensive zones, as the team has struggled in both, leaving Carter Hart out to dry. The Selke Trophy candidate stepped back into a top-six role — scoring twice Sunday — and hopefully your active lineup.
Others include: Nathan MacKinnon (lower body, injured Sunday, Jan. 31, could return Feb. 14), Robert Thomas (broken thumb, injured Saturday, out 4-6 weeks), Pierre-Luc Dubois (post-trade COVID-19 protocols, out since Jan. 21, will suit up against the Flames on Tuesday), Jake DeBrusk (lower body, out since Jan. 28, will return to the Bruins' lineup Wednesday), Wayne Simmonds (hand, left Saturday's game with injury, could miss six weeks), Kris Letang (lower body, left Saturday, Jan. 30 game against the Rangers, played Saturday against the Islanders), Zach Werenski (lower body, placed on injured reserve Friday, will miss 1-2 weeks), Matt Grzelcyk (lower body, has been banged up all season, will return to action Wednesday), Pavel Francouz (lower body, out all season, landed on LTIR), Mike Smith (leg, made season debut Monday), Elvis Merzlikins (upper body, injury suffered at practice Thursday, landed on IR) and Anton Khudobin (benched Sunday for disciplinary purposes).
FOURTH LINERS/PRESS BOXERS (FALLERS)
Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR
Zibanejad was late reporting to camp due to contacting COVID and his play suffered broadly from the lack of conditioning and jump on the ice. He has started to turn the tide recently, but still has yet to find that gear — and shot — that netted him 41 goals in 75 games last season. With just a goal and two assists in 11 games, Zib could have been a Trade For candidate this week. Instead, as someone who has Zib rostered in three leagues, I place him here hoping the reverse maloik gets his game going.
T.J. Oshie, RW, WAS
Oshie burst out of the gates with a goal and two assists on Opening Night. After a pair of scoreless efforts, Oshie added a goal and four assists in his next five contests. But filing in as the second-line center for Evgeny Kuznetsov, Oshie is scoreless the last three games, as the Capitals integrate those who were out due to COVID-19 back into their lineup. Oshie has scored 49-60 points the last seven seasons while playing 69-80 games. Look for him to match that kind of production prorated over 56 games, but for now, he lands on this side of the ledger, at least until Kuz returns and he shifts back to wing. (Check injury status, as he sat out practice Saturday for a maintenance day and missed Sunday's game).
Ryan Graves, D, COL
Graves was the belle of the ball last year, coming seemingly out of nowhere to tally nine goals, 17 helpers, and 134 shots while leading the league with a plus-40 rating. The 25-year-old blueliner also added significant totals in the hits (112) and blocked shots (150) categories, making him a player likely on many winning rosters. Coming into the season, a decline was expected, partially because Colorado added Devon Toews, had Bowen Byram in the wings and several more blueliners ready to contribute. But I don't think any of us expected this rapid drop in production, as Graves has been benched, moved to the third line, and contributed just a pair of assists in 10 games with a minus-five rating. Maybe the time off due to the COVID protocol for the Avalanche will aid Graves in re-finding his game.
Others include: Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan, Jeff Skinner, Sam Bennett, Brett Connolly, Noah Dobson, Jacob Trouba, Martin Jones, Thatcher Demko, Braden Holtby, and Darcy Kuemper.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, FLA
The Bob was an unmitigated bust his first season in Florida after signing a seven-year, $70-million deal. As we wrote in our preseason outlook, "A year after finishing in the top 10 in Vezina Trophy voting for the third straight season, Bobrovsky's .900 save percentage and 3.23 GAA ranked 38th and 43rd, respectively, among 45 goalies who played at least 30 games." If you believed that Bobrovsky would rebound this season, despite being 3-0-1, he instead has a 3.57 goals-against average and .881 save percentage while getting outplayed by Chris Driedger.